A healthy spine?

When in the UK in December I was carrying this sense that there was an increase of apostolic authority to bring a new level of alignment. This was in particular related to England, and coming to Leicester (midlands) it seemed very appropriate for that geography but applicable wider. I was aware that King Richard’s body had been found there but do not think I knew that the confirmation that it was his skeleton was in part because he had a crooked spine.

Prior to coming across I had a dream just after setting the various dates and places. In it I was present in a Christian gathering and there were some great things taking place. People touched by God, healings etc. There was a very clear voice and the people present were focused and in harmony. A person then explained to me that these great things were taking place because of the unity of purpose. I had already observed two things: 1) that the clarity of voice was coming from one person and there was a great agreement with that voice, and 2) that when I looked out the people were of similar ethnic and class background. There was a uniformity to them.

These two elements disturbed me so I took time to respond to what I was being told saying that the voice of God is as the sound of many waters. It does not come through one language or one culture. If God can speak through a donkey he can certainly speak through a white middle class male. But the fullness of his voice has to come through the diversity, and such diversity will mean that we might not even be able to hear clearly!

Miracles do not attest a person’s authenticity. Paul does say the signs of an apostle were with him and he included miracles as part of the evidence. But by themselves they are not enough. After all Jesus made it clear that there would be those claiming to have done miracles in his name but that they were unknown to him.

The spine and the dream?

A healthy spine is not simply straight but also flexible. It is aligned but allows for movement; it facilitates multi-directional communication.

An apostolic gift must have patience as its context (2 Cor. 12:12) as it seeks to be aligned with the Gospel. Paul exhibited this as he described himself as one called to be an apostle and eschewed the title ‘apostle’. (A title would have given him authority over, the calling a mission to be accountable to.) He was not disobedient to the calling and made himself accountable to heaven for his work. He was aligned personally – he had his ‘true north’ set. If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority then it has to start with right alignment. If those with apostolic gift are not rightly aligned how can they help align the body of Christ. I am not professing to know what this might be but surely at the centre is the commitment to the spiritual and social transformation of the world (let your kingdom come). If there is that alignment in the apostolic then there can be a legitimate voice coming to the body of Christ to align in this way.

True North

A focus on other aspects will be a deviation from true north. All other directions have to flow from that. A straight spine! But a flexible spine that allows and facilitates movement in such a diversity of directions. This is where the multi- and diverse-language voices have to be heard. It is not the voice of the donkey, nor of the white middle class male, but of the multitude who are finding their direction in the light of the true north setting.

If there is to be an increase of apostolic authority that manifest in the UK / England great patience will be needed. A settling for the one voice speaks for all will not be sufficient, and even if miracles manifest there will be a falling short. The diversity might even be somewhat confusing, but the greater fullness can only come that way.

The Brexit

The above thoughts too I believe are totally relevant to a new Europe. The new Europe has to be made up of all of us who are now arriving. We all – those of us who have been established for some time in this context – and those who are more recent on the scene, all have to see ourselves as arriving to shape something new. The Brexit is to do with the reshaping of Europe. The UK (England?) has a huge contribution to make into this context. The gift has to be that of diversity. If a nation can only go where the body of Christ goes then I consider the apostolic increase is needed right now. If not then we are in for a very traumatic future. If it does there is also great trauma ahead, but a pathway through.

Brazil (and…) elections

Tomorrow we fly back to Europe. I have a few hours gap and with the Brazilian presidential election tomorrow night I have a few minutes to write and put up this video extract together with a comment regarding the church, this election and the wider issue in country after country. This election in Brazil is important, but it is important as a sign that the country has entered a very important season. The election is the sign… the challenge is for the body of Christ to participate in the season that is opening up.

I spoke into a conference in Brazil by Skype back in 2015 and spoke about a number of the things that have taken place since that date… That input was videoad and put on YouTube (not the video below). Crazily two of the presidential candidates in the earlier rounds used material directly from that input in their campaigns! Using it to manipulate votes… I understand they were Christian candidates or at least seeking to gain the Christian vote. The video below is from the recent few days. In it I seek to expose the major flaw in why the (normally) right wing strong law and order candidate is pulling the Christian vote. The serious nature of this is not whether they are the right / wrong or better candidate but the error that change comes top down… Much more to say on this, and this is not a comment about right / left politics – the extremes on both sides are experts at ‘biopower’, eating up lives in the process. There is though a major deception that is being exposed at this time, that of the understanding of power and the selling out of the church to the power paradigm. No surprise that with 22% evangelical the church of Brazil has still not shifted the presence of the occult. Thank God for the MANY and growing number of those who are clear on this.

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Deep and deeper?

[No it is not an image of a wig, not even one underground… but of roots!! Roots that need to become visible… Now that is clear, read on.]

Gayle and I have just travelled door to door 21 hours, from our apartment to Valencia airport to Rome (yes wrong direction but cheapest flights), change of flights to Rio de Janeiro and to the home of Cesar and Nubia. Maybe disorientation, maybe clarity settled but a little revelation for our own situation and perhaps it will also connect to other situations. A background first.

It is amazing to tick off boxes of answered prayer when there is an evident shift. So on two aspects we were deeply encouraged as we have prayed into the ongoing legacy of Franco in the land of Spain. A while back a prominent politician was in trouble for having on her resumé (CV) a master’s degree. There were clearly anomalies with the award and eventually she had to resign when this was in the news and another issue came up that further compromised her. Gayle was adamant that if we could manage to push this one through there would be a knock on effect even to the resignation of the then President over corruption charges – mainly focused on his party. That seemed a little optimistic, or even a lot optimistic. Within a matter of weeks, when even up to the last hour it was not predicted, the President had to resign and there was a change of government. (Just to be clear, though I hope it is clear, no government is perfect, but what we are looking for are signs that what is hidden and should not be get exposed. That was why we were pushing in this way.)

The second aspect was the prayer – some 11 hour drive from our home – at the house where Franco was born and then on the following day the government passed that his body will be removed from the Valley of the Fallen. There are many reasons why it would be important spiritually for this to happen due to the geographic and historic nature of that area.

Two great shifts, that give one enough energy to jump like a big frog for at least a few minutes each day (figurative language there, not literal… though Gayle is able to jump quite well I have to admit. Not sure though she has quite got the frog action.)

Frogs aside, it is wonderful to get shifts, until…

  • The President is replaced but the rhetoric of the one replacing him is that the party needs to go back to its roots, turn the clock back before the last party leader and get back to the days of the transition – a whole area we have tried to get a handle on this year. A shift only for something more Franco-esque to come in.
  • Franco’s remains to be moved, but there is now a strong pull for this to be into Madrid (our focus) in a Cathedral by the royal palace and with full military honours!

Two shifts and then? Why bother when the shifts are so short lived, and it seems if anything the issues become larger afterwards. Ever been there? We have wrestled with this and although determined that we will not stop have been a little perplexed. So maybe just a flight or two later and a little clarity comes, but here it is for us at least:

We have seen something shift, shift does not mean completed but it will often mean that something then gets revealed at a deeper level. These two results are not set-backs, they simply push us to go a deeper level as there is a root being revealed. Or maybe we can put it that what was partially hidden becomes increasingly visible. So the frog-like jumping might take a back seat for a day or two but the sight that feeds perseverance now also has to fuel further sight as to what the deeper root is.

I am not prescribing the above as a recipe for success in every situation but I am sure it will resonate for some situations and if so take it as encouragement. I think also the clarity came in Brazil as it relates to the nation here. There have been wonderful moves forward. Around 20% of the nation would be charismatic/pentecostal evangelical with that increase coming over the past decades. Put that into a European context and we would be shouting ‘revival’ for sure. Yet the level of occult, societal disorder, corruption of power and all that goes along with those issues is ever so visible. Something deeper has to take place. Of course if one’s vision is simply of getting as many people born again as possible, although there is always more to be done, we would be saying ‘job well done’. I suspect that the next phase is that there will be apparent setbacks. We prayed this and this, we believed for transformation and this is the situation… The next phase – something deeper is being revealed. The deeper that is revealed in each place will depend on the context. Here power and the belief of a top down – get the right person in as the boss – will be revealed for the error and danger it is. Elsewhere it will be something different, but in each place it will be a further exposure of the roots that continue to pollute.

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How do you spell that?

Misogyny

One of those difficult words to spell but a very important word at this time. We can learn a lot as to what is on the agenda by looking at what rises in the world – both the good and the bad… and of course the mixed. God is at work in the whole world, not simply in the church, and I also consider that answers to prayer often take place in the world and we miss them because we have been looking for the manifestation in the church. We are here for the world, so it should not surprise us what rises there – and we should not be expecting some level of perfection either.

I appreciated the comments on the previous post which somehow has seemed to hit a resonance for many. I was interested that I had highlighted as one of the three aspects being exposed the sin of misogyny which has made me think a little since writing. When we track sin as outlined in the Fall we can see that a root and a manifestation is greed and consumerism – ‘I saw, I desired and I consumed…’ The classic gender war Scripture flows from there – ‘your desire will be for your husband but he will rule over you’ – and the patriarchal nature of society certainly bears witness to the accuracy of that statement. And from there we can read what follows as resulting in an increased protectionism and separation, with Empire building being the aspect that draws people together – we will make a name for ourselves. (Gen 3-11.)

The issue of male and female is not a side issue to the Gospel. It is the most fundamental of the ‘other’ relationships. Male and female together made in the image of the Tri-une God (who is neither male nor female but both feminine and masculine). Two in the image of God and not a triad of humans? In the right relationship to the other something is created that is distinct from the two yet dependent on those two. I am not talking about a third gender but of something intangible yet very real. Love for the other is created. Only when that organic and spirit to spirit unity is expressed can we say the image of God is present – that image is not defined by physicality but relationally. If misogyny is present a whole raft of demonising the other will arise. Jesus, the one truly human in the image of God, spelt out what is at the core of God’s being when he called us to love the enemy. The enemy, the one who is opposed to us, who sets out to intimidate, control, manipulate and put us to death. The enemy is beyond the one I create from my fear, and imagine to be my enemy. We will have to move beyond the fear of the immigration wave! It was this seed that Jesus was planting in us through his death on the cross ‘while we were yet enemies’.

If we cannot get the fundamental, and first base relationship, of male and female expressed in egalitarian ways we will really struggle to move forward to any real substance of shalom.

The lid has come off (façades?) in many situations. It does not mean that everything expressed is totally accurate (why do we expect perfection?) but there is something happening. The culture of sexual abuse and intimidation, unjust salary differences… The lid is not going back down. In the body of Christ we will need to example something clearly. If not then we can only expect to see an increase of language and action that demonises the other.

In the scheme of calling for big changes there is always something so simple, so small right at hand that we can respond with. We often miss it as it seems irrelevant. But the small and the at hand is the leverage point to shift something bigger. What can be shifted that seems so immovable if we go deeper and allow ourselves to be delivered (men) from the misogynist culture? What can shift when women faithfully inhabit their space even to the discomfort of those who resist?

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Will we make a difference?

HEALTH WARNING attached!!

If what I write below is close to what is here and coming then taking heed could really unlock some health into our world and for the next generation. If we do not heed it…

I have been very exercised about some of the significant global crises that are on the horizon. For the past 3 weeks I have been seeing a very serious economic upheaval. Then a few days ago the global climate report was published with the ‘we have twelve years to address this’. It would be crazy to dismiss this report, as crazy as if I had a group of credited medics in front of me all pushing for the same diagnosis but I argued for something different, someone with no medical expertise. The only, and invalid, reason for dismissing this UN climate report would be because of the economic ramifications to the world we have created.

We have entered a window of time when the façades are opening again, so I wish to repeat a dream I had at the beginning of the decade and in the same season as another dream that seemed to indicate that it was relevant for this decade. For those who have read this before feel free to jump ahead.

I was in a town square and simply standing at one side of it.. I was observing the buildings on the other side and knew that they represented every institution that had shaped the public space as we have it today: education, health, government, business, trade, church, etc. were all present. With no prior warning and all at the same time the fronts of the buildings came froward and then up as if they were on a hinge. Anyone could look inside the buildings. My first thought was I need to warn those on the other side of the square as buildings acting like that will soon become very unstable and fall over, so I considered anyone close was in real danger. I got ready to shout my warning but soon realised that the buildings were not going to fall over. I then held my warning as I tried to work out what was going on. I felt a sense of danger but knew it was deeper than ‘get away from the buildings’. While I am contemplating what the danger was someone began quietly to sing a well-known worship song that focused on the Lordship of Jesus. There were obviously enough people in the public square with Christian faith that a second person added their voice, then a third and so on. The volume of the singing rose some, and then when it reached a certain level, all the buildings simply closed up again. I was very disturbed by what had happened and did not know what I should shout out. While pondering this, trying to get a handle on the appropriate warning I heard an audible voice that came from just behind me (I never looked left nor right but simply focused on the buildings that were across the square.) The audible voice said:

It is the familiar that restores the status quo, that brings everything back to where it was.

Now I knew the warning I needed to get across. The warning was concerning pulling on the familiar, and the shock in the dream of course was that the familiar that caused the façades to close up was the response of singing by those of faith – but familiar is familiar however we define it.

Knowing what the warning now was I cleared my throat, took a deep breath and then shouted out: ‘It is the familiar…’ I got those four words out and a person from my right side stood right in my face, eye-balling me, to intimidate me. I was determined that I would not be put off, so stepped to my left, cleared my throoat, and then once more got the first four words out and the person repeated their intimidating action. This happenned one more time, so three times this person prevented me shouting out the whole warning. I stepped aside once more and again shouted the first four words. This time the person finished my sentence (‘It is the familiar…’) with the words

that brings things back to normal.

Similar but such a false representation.

Given that I consider Scripture calls the body of Christ to act priestly what takes place in the public square is our responsibility. There might be a battle, it might take time for a change to come, we might well also have ‘failures’ as we engage, but the point is we have to step up to our responsibility. We cannot control what happens there, but through our positioning in the world and our petitioning to heaven we can shift the spiritual atmosphere and create boundaries so that there is an opportunity for the growth of righteousness. In the light of that it is not surprising that in the dream it was the response of believers that short-circuited what was happening in the public square. There is evidently a time to sing, and there is a time not to. I say this as I am convinced that the façades are opening up again. We have to learn what the right response is in this season.

An aside on some current reflections – with the acknowledgement they might not be the most relevant and tomorrow they might not even be relevant. Many Western nations are not willing to engage in any level of sanctions against one of the main human rights violators (Saudi Arabia) because they purchase arms from us – this is certainly true of Spain, the UK and the USA. Economics triumphs over ethics. Mammon or God, Jesus said, and although we would be naive to expect some kind of ‘Christian’ standard in a nation we do have the right to expect a level of right action, and nation after nation are putting economics before any humanitarian perspective. In a few days we are in Brazil and will be there for the final vote for the presidency. A figure who seems to have huge support from many Christians is of course pushing a strong agenda that might increase their economy but at what cost to the environment and to the marginalised? No candidate is perfect but to get behind someone because they are pro-a-number-of-moral-issues and pro boosting the economy as if they are God’s candidate is extremely naive. Maybe we can suggest at times a particular approach better accords with our beliefs but it really is time to drop the idea of a God appointed candidate or a Christian nation.

The façades are opening. It is not simply that we will be able to see the bizarre nature of the Western economic system that only operates if there is debt (debt will always result somewhere in slavery and at some measure an inevitable eating tomorrow’s bread today) or the paucity of public political debate but we will be able to see some very deep roots… unless we close our eyes to what is being revealed. The familiar can close the façades down, although I wonder if we (believers) will even be able to do that this time round. And beyond the familiar there are factors that hamper our sight. Those will be found in our commitment to a shallow Gospel that does not challenge nationalism, patriotism, patriarchy and the deep inequalities in society. If we do not heed at this time that the Gospel is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, nor male and female we will find our eyes will not even see what is before us and we will simply look for ‘normal’ to be restored.

What is being exposed in the days that lie ahead (and I am sure much more can be added to this) are:

  • greed and consumerism
  • misogyny
  • protectionism that demonises the ‘other’

The inevitable result will not just be trade wars, but war. It will not simply be a major shift to extreme right wing policies (as we see rise in Europe) but the establishing of a neo-nazi totalitarianism that will eventually be seen not be favourable to faith, including that of the Christian faith.

I suggest we have the next two years, when either a level playing field will be established or we will leave the next generation a Herculean task to bring things forward to something that resembles a God shape for society.

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Art – what is it worth?

A few years ago I prophesied that ‘when we learn how to value art, the housing market will be re-valued’. I have re-visited that word many times with perplexity. Many artists struggle to make a living; many of the high, high end earners will buy up art as an investment. The ‘art market’ is all over the place. The investment of time, effort and soul that some put in for little return is so wrong; storing art away from public view simply as a means for personal security is also so wrong…

What is the value of art? (And rightly by extension I include ‘the arts’.)

My perplexity I now realise (I got this insight by reading Deb Chapman’s comment on the last post) is that I have been thinking in monetary terms. As we know the vast percentage of money does not exist. 97% in most western economies does not exist, hence it is only confidence and debt that keeps the economy at the levels we find them. I should never have been trying to work out what the word meant money-wise. Driving as we do in our San Lorenzo (died 258AD in Rome) whose gift was to force a revaluation I should never have been trapped into the way of thinking I was in over art.

The value of art

It has to be given its rightful place. It is one of the means to connect heaven to earth. It touches the imagination (and therefore can also be perverted to connect hell and earth) so that speech can be made that releases heaven to earth. God made the trees and saw that they were good… If for a moment I overstate things. God saw what he had made and it impacted him. That is art. We are not talking about a rational function but of an inner transformation through a visual / auditory / kinesthetic experience. How do we value that?

Art challenges how we value everything. This is the challenge San Lorenzo presented to the emperor when he presented him with the blind, sick and poor. ‘These are God’s riches’, he said! The emperor had him killed… but he being dead still speaks. Jesus said that no prophet can die outside of Jerusalem, but he fulfilled that. From his time on the place of death is Rome / Babylon / the empire, the place that says we value things and you will not buy nor sell unless you bow to our value system.

Art is subversive. In art we learn how a new economy that is not based on trade, but on giving and receiving.

Now is the time. Yes the winds are adverse but there is a breath of the Spirit behind the arts right now. So vital as we are coming to another economic crisis. The last one was patched over when the body of Christ (the ‘authority carriers’ for the future) opted for an alignment with the familiar, lacking imagination for a different future. When we can only imagine change through getting to the top we have failed to imagine. Art can help us imagine change through the subversion of service and love. We owe you a huge debt, you artists.

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We still dream

In looking at Pentecost and the background of the tower of Babel narrative there is the implicit message of a boundary being removed. God inserted a boundary at Babel so that there might not be a level of unity whereby ‘whatever they put their mind to they will accomplish’. He did this through the confusion of the languages. At Pentecost where everyone heard them speak in their language there is the gift of languages so that there might be a working, a planning together so that what was in their hearts might indeed be accomplished. Pentecost unlocks the imagination so that possibilities open up.

The imagination is so important. The ‘I have a dream’ speech of Martin Luther King resonates because there is something so strongly of God’s character in it. The dream is of a different future:

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.

As believers this is what we bring to the table. Something not based in the Enlightenment ideal of progress, nor in the Marxist ideology of change through conflict, but based on faith in an ‘optimistic’ life-giving God who demonstrated this in Jesus. What we bring is more than a good idea, or simply an ‘imagine all the people’ that Lennon invited us to. We are to bring a faith that true imagination unlocks the activity of heaven. Paul put it like this:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3: 20).

God can do, but we have to do something too – it begins in the imagination, in the asking. What God does is in proportion not to his power, but in proportion to his power that is working among us. That power is not simply measured by how many miracles we can testify to (though that is important) but how much the power of God is transforming our lives from self-centredness to God- and world-centredness. As that takes place and there are imaginations fuelled by God’s loving, redemptive agenda so God shows up. I am convinced it was that intangible, yet very real presence of God that provoked non-believing, with a lot to lose, people, the Asiarchs, to connect to Paul in Ephesus.

If we can move beyond that of ‘saving souls to get them their ticket to heaven’ and see that God is in the business of rescuing people from life as it has been sold to them, to enabling them to engage with his dream and activities of aligning the world with a visible manifestation around us of heavenly values. This is what Luther King articulated.

There is now an incredible battle on for the soul of the world. Conformity, monochromeness that obliterates difference has incredibly become an agenda that wins votes. We were made for difference and it is fear that is the fodder that turns those votes. When the media is in the control of the elite it should not surprise us that it can quickly be labelled the ‘enemy of the people’. Any activity that challenges the status quo becomes sidelined and illegal.

There is something bigger at stake than Britain leaving the EU… the bigger is the reshaping of Europe regardless of levels of government. For any reshaping to be redemptive I consider that the wonderful body of Christ needs to dream again. The future context (and the one that is already here and has been for well over a decade) is so different to the one in which ‘Toronto’ occurred. But ‘Toronto’ prepared us for this. We have been prepared to go places we have never gone before, to no longer exercise in the playground at the set time, but to live with a soul bared, wind in face, looking the conflicts in the eye and proclaim – we still dream.

A while ago I declared a new media is here. It will come. It cannot be silenced, for God is a communicator. I declare today the dream is on. It cannot be stopped. A shift of time is literally now on the EU agenda. From the shift of time comes the setting of ‘true north’. The setting of direction for journey. People have been moving at an alarming and unprecedented rate these past years. The issue now is the setting of true north for people movements in Scripture indicate a great shift in time. There are political and economic decisions that will have to be made… but first has to come the unlocking of the imagination about a future that has not yet been shaped. For this we make room for the artists, the cartoonists, the graffiti-ists, the writers. They will both articulate and make room for the imagination.

The adverse winds are blowing… but I think the dream is still on.

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Can we see in colour?

I have referred to an open vision that someone sent us – along with others – many, many months before the UK referendum on EU membership. In it she saw, and no one was even close to predicting this at the time, that a hand would come and withdraw the UK from the map of Europe. The result was that light and colour drained out of Europe, she saw it going down something like a hole in the south of France. We did endeavour, with those she sent the vision to, to close the hole by travelling there some two years ago.

I appreciate that for those within the UK there is divided opinion on the merits of the (less than perfect!) EU. I voted to remain as an embracing of the continent has always seemed very important to me spiritually – and of course one could vote ‘leave’ and still hold the importance of being together relationally. I also voted that way as I see NO reason from Scripture to suggest the evil beast of Europe – if only it was that easy!! The beast is a lot more subtle and more widespread than anything Brussels could ever compete with. Anyway enough of that and back to the vision…

In these past weeks I have been thinking about what a draining of colour would mean, and realised that colour is diversity. In the diversity of the light spectrum came the promise of God’s commitment to the world. In the diversity of the oft-four times repeated (and varied) phrase in Revelation: ‘every tongue, tribe, peoples and nation’ we find that God is glorified.

The history books that will be written of this period of time will I suspect reflect on a battle for the future of Europe and its identity. Either the future could be more diverse (with the wonderful challenges presented by that) or there could be a shutting down and an exclusion of what looks different. Colour or monochrome?

I think it is very rare that God says, close the door!! It seems he usually says open the door and make room. To do so necessitates that we come out from under the fear narrative. Many in Germany have done just that and we hear wonderful reports of those who have fled there, with no faith or with faith in a God other than the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus, who have come to faith. It would not be the first time in history that God has revealed himself to those fleeing imperial power.

While reflecting on the vision it becomes apparent that the response of the UK is very important. More important than a referendum on the EU, important as that was and is proving to be, is the willingness to embrace at a deep level diversity. Easier said than done, but an open heart to travelling unknown paths is a starting point.

It is interesting living life in a land that is not one’s birth land. I cannot claim to understand being an immigrant – I am probably a hypocritical one. (Hypocrite was ‘actor’ in Greek.) Gayle and I have privileges. we can live here legitimately. We are not in fear of someone banging on the door and we are deported – and even if we were we are not being sent back to a dangerous situation. We refuse to live as ‘ex-pats’. We are immigrants. I was told by one of my more honest neighbours recently – so you have lived here 10 years and your Spanish is a disgrace (OUCH!). We are immigrants, but only slightly on the outside. I guess all we can do is continue at the hypocritical (acting) level and maybe we will so get into the character that we become more genuine. We can only give what we have and what our situation allows us. That is our very small contribution into the plea for colour to be present in Europe.

Our contribution is small – all our contributions are small, but maybe in the context of the future of Europe those living in the UK might just have a big say. Bring on the colour!!

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Small and diverse

I have been using a phrase over the past two years or so that I want to try and expand here. The phrase is:

The multiplicity of the small and the richness of diversity.

Too often we have looked for the quick solution, hearing news of the latest ‘new thing’ and tried to replicate it where we are. The ‘new thing’, particularly due to our means of communication becomes a center and can be found and often connected to pretty easily. A center of that nature of course administratively is normally tightly run so usually comes with a ready shape to the content, thus a package can be imported.

Those centers have indeed helped open horizons for us, but maybe by default they have helped support the myth of what ‘success’ looks like. (An aside: I am not sure ‘success’ as defined by how we appear is a biblical criterion, I would rather suggest ‘effectiveness’ as a better criterion – and that will be measured much, much later.) If we were to look at the growth of the early church from where it started in Jerusalem we would come up with a figure of around 40% growth per decade. Not staggering growth, but growth that was not simply centered on people coming to faith but on the impact on society to undermine all societal divisions.

God so often grants us what we ask for. Israel asks for a king – he gives them one. (Beware what kind of leaders we wish for as the body of Christ. A strong leader that restores order might just open the door to all kinds of hierarchies and inequalities that we never thought possible. The rise of Hitler in Germany was not exactly because he was damaging the economy nor failing to make Germany feel good about itself again, as he set about reversing what he declared was unjust. For sure, we face this in Europe at this time and the church has to be so careful about simply supporting those who tout ‘traditional values’.) Maybe in response to the many prayers for ‘revival’ he has given us some wonderful ‘big’ new things, maybe though now is the time he wants to give us something deeper and longer lasting? If so it could be along the lines I am suggesting, of the small and the diverse.

Jesus worked hard to distribute, not simply delegate, authority. This seems to be one of the offences that Judas did not deal with, and combined with personal weakness and theological conviction set him on a path of betraying Jesus. The Last Supper, and every Eucharist or meal table since, was an amazing symbolic act of distribution. Jesus gave himself. There was no center to remain as he followed through on his words of ‘better I go away’. His absence will be better! The Holy Spirit from Pentecost onward has marked the same trajectory. The Spirit comes to ‘each’, the Spirit is for ‘you’. There is a distribution of the Presence of God and therefore of authority. This does not negate gifting to serve, but gifting must never practically negate this universal distribution.

Large centers inspire, help shape an atmosphere of faith, but can also draw everything back to that center. It is sad to meet people who have been in those centers at some point, but for whatever reason become disillusioned and then to become adrift in a sea of total uncertainty. In those situations apparently the big center could not help them sustain faith as they navigated the necessary growth environment of doubt. We all have to discover the glory of God that is present in the wilderness if we are to develop, we have to know that the wilderness is not cursed of God, nor the domain of the enemy but the place where miracles are born – for that is there the ‘wild beasts were with Jesus’.

One size does not fit all. If society becomes yet more diverse, culturally and religiously, there will be even a greater need for a greater diversity than ever before. Just as water fills the shape of where it is poured out, so the expression of the distributed life of God has to fill the space where it flows. Gayle and I are very fluid in our situation, but are not critical of other situations that are not fluid. Maybe the context they are in needs much more shape than we are comfortable with. Our conviction is it takes all shapes to release the life of God in the world.

I recently wrote in a newsletter about the need to find true north. That the issue facing the body of Christ is not to find the right shape, but to find the right direction – a direction that will lead the people of heaven to be ‘with’ the world and not simply seeking to do things ‘for’ (or worse still ‘to’) the world.

I look for a future that will be diverse. In diversity comes incredible richness. I look for the future to be the multiplicity of the small. The brave seem to me to be able to point the way to this possibility. Multiplicity and richness – centered on Jesus. Seems to flow from setting the compass to true north.

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Provision of Transport

A couple of days ago Gayle posted a dream that opens up some new sight for us. We have to make sure we know the way and seek out who God wants to connect us to who know the ‘how’. We aspire that those connections will be personal relationships but over these past years have also discovered that connections are made in the Spirit, that it is possible to connect with people, even if one never meets them in person, but influences them and impart to them what they need.

Gayle is a prolific dreamer and we have been shaped in our thinking by a number of the dreams she has had, not least of which is our current location. For many years I did not seem to dream, and certainly did not seem to have any ‘God’ dreams. Something shifted mid 90s, and although I do not dream to the same extent as Gayle, there have been a number of dreams that have opened up new sight for me. A recurrent ‘location’ for my dreams is that I am in a specific location, or with people associated with that place. If that is the context for the dream it invariably is either 1) going to have new revelation for me, or 2) those in the dream will simply not get what I am sharing.

Around five years ago I had a dream that was in that location. The background was that we moved to Spain in 2009 and until the beginning of 2014 we did not have a car. There was also a period of many months in the UK when I did not have a car. It was in the year after Sue passed away. I kinda felt that it was the Lord prompting me in that direction, however it was probably more to do with a therapy of slowing down, feet on ground, connecting with the land.

In this dream I went to a gathering that was on the prophetic. I was asked by one of those carrying responsibility for the gathering what was I going to share. I began with

‘God has given me a new mode of transport.’

‘Brilliant’, came the reply, ‘we need these testimonies of how God has supplied new cars.’

I tried to explain repeatedly that I was not talking about a literal vehicle, that in fact we did not even have a car, and I was talking about a whole new way of journeying through life with God, and the ‘car-lessness’ was simply a symbol of that. No matter how many times I tried to explain it, he did not get it. He then went on to enthusiastically introduce me explaining the wonderful news of God’s provision of a new car for us and how great an encouragement that will be. I spoke, sought to explain that this was not about the provision of a car, but of a whole new way of journeying. At the end the same guy came back to again underline God’s provision of a car!! (Maybe the dream was to show me that I probably need a few lessons in communication!)

Assuming that the dream was not about my communication skills… There is a level of the prophetic that unlocks provision, and the testimonies of ‘God provided this’ are vital. God is the God who shows up with manna, and a whole lot more. There is though a level of the prophetic that does not negate the personal and practical provision, but does not always go down to that level, nor accept fulfilments at that level. We can have new transport, and have no car. We can start with a car, lose it, but have gained new transport.

I suggest two immediate aspects from the dream:

  • the prophetic has to be pulled up a whole level from that of evident personal or even corporate provision, and the resulting testimonies of ‘success’
  • the prophetic has to go deeper into the realities of incarnated living.

We can receive new (literal) transport but little changes in how we travel. Our comfort level might go up, but we are doing the same old same old. The transport has changed but nothing has changed. Or we can embrace a new way of walking – if without a car – slower and more reflective, letting the connection to the land speak to us. We can gain new sight from the landscape which will need fresh gifts of interpretation. The mid 90s marked something of a great shift for many, and I can certainly see a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ from that time, but the mid 90s are some 20 years ago. A lot of provision was given. A lot of answered prayers with ‘new cars’ showing up and testimonies being shared, but I suspect that the Lord wanted to take us deeper with / without a new car.

In the time, particularly in the UK, of not owning a car, my movement was slower. I had time to pray. I could not rush from one setting to the next. If I had an appointment to meet someone I really had to think how long would it take me to get there. I could not do one more thing, arrive in a hurry a few minutes late. I am not sure how good I was at reflecting but I think I began to see that we had to look at the landscape all around and ask for interpretation. For those who have dug deeply, since the mid 90s, into that aspect I suspect they have less testimonies of God’s provision of the brand new car, are not going to be flavour of the month to fill the next conference, have been dis- / re-located so that they are seeing more of the landscape rather than just the arbitrary pausing points.

The landscape has shifted. It is not primarily about the provision, but the release of resources for the job in hand, for the workers in the field. And again to pull on the theme I have pursued for a while, that of ‘royal priesthood’, those workers are not the full-time Christian workers, but the workers, and the field is the world. Prophetic words can have personal fulfilment, but I think there is even something deeper than personal fulfilment, it is fulfilment that brings about change beyond our personal sphere. Fulfilments where we have journeyed with the word about the ‘new car’, and in the journey have discovered new transportation and as a result provision for others that would not have been released otherwise.

It seems far easier to embrace the wonderful stories of God’s evident practical provision, and long may those stories abound, but we also need to embrace, and help others embrace the journey that might not give us that story to tell, but enable others to have a story to tell. Israel was promised a land, and they fought over the land and its boundaries… At one level they contested for fulfilment, and in the process missed the bigger picture. Paul blew into that promise saying God promised Abraham the world, thus making the land all-but superfluous. There seems to have been a lot of fights over boundaries… time to let go and to tenaciously hold on to fulfilments way beyond what we thought would be the fulfilment.

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